On Tuesday 20th February I spoke in a debate in Westminster Hall about funding for UK basketball.
You can watch clips of my speech here and here, and read about the debate on Sky Sports News or in The Times. I said:
This debate comes at a tough and rough time for urban, inner-city communities in our country. Local authorities have had their money slashed by up to 40%. The idea that they could invest in courts and facilities is, I am afraid, pie in the sky. In a constituency such as mine, knife crime and gun crime are souring. I thank God for groups such as the Haringey Hawks and the Haringey Angels. I thank God for the basketball facilities we have at Ducketts Common and Finsbury Park.
I ask the Minister very seriously why we are looking at the prospect of the decimation of elite basketball in this country. I remind her that this is absolutely an urban sport and a predominantly black, Asian and minority ethnic sport: almost 60% of adults in the sport are from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds. The figure for adult men is 75%. That is staggering. In reality, they are role models — role models I desperately need — but there cannot be role models if there is no prospect of making it to the elite.
When I look at the figures for this urban sport, which attracts black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in the numbers it does, I have to ask why hockey received £28.1 million and the rugby league received £51.6 million. Why is it that canoeing, equestrian, cycling and rowing all do so much better? Where is the equity in that formula? Can the Minister satisfy herself that there is no unintended or unconscious bias in the way that judgments are being made about that funding? Urban communities across the country require young people to have the prospect of reaching their hoop dreams.
This debate is important because this is a critical moment for basketball in this country. There are many people in the Public Gallery and across the country waiting to hear what the Minister will say. On the tube, people have tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Are you going to be in the debate? What can you do about it, Mr Lammy?”
When we look at the problems that urban communities have across the country, we cannot talk about dreams and cut them away in the same breath. We need proper grassroots basketball, of course, but we absolutely need the prospect of being successful in the elite game. Ultimately, this debate is about whether we are going to throw that away after all the effort that has been put in. I cannot wait to hear the Minister’s response.